These Environmental NGOs should stick to trying to end the climate crisis and not stoke skepticism about our justice … – JD Supra

I was sad to see the Law 360  report that a coalition of environmental and human rights NGOs have petitioned President Biden to pardon former attorney Steven Donzinger who was jailed for criminal contempt of court in 2021, over seven years after he refused to comply with a court order to provide access to his computers, phones, email, and social media accounts for forensic inspection by Chevron.  I had written about a similar plea two years ago
Environmental lawyers everywhere were shocked by Mr. Danziger’s story.  He was lionized after obtaining a $9.5 billion dollar judgment against Chevron in Ecuador for despoiling the Amazon.   Then a Federal District Court Judge, a New York State Appeals Court, and a tribunal of the international Permanent Court of Arbitration are reported to have separately found that the Ecuadorian judgment was procured through “egregious fraud” including judicial coercion and bribery.  The Federal Court refused to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment, Mr. Donziger was disbarred and, when he refused to comply with the Judge’s order that he comply with discovery requests from Chevron, he was tried for that refusal by yet another Federal Judge, convicted, and jailed for several weeks.  That conviction was upheld by a panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
The environmental and human rights NGOs seeking a Presidential pardon for Mr. Donziger say that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has a problem with the due process Mr. Donziger received before being jailed for ignoring a valid court order.
I’ve never heard of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.  The NGOs’ letter to the President doesn’t provide any detail about why this entity thinks the United States District Court’s and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ handling of Mr. Donziger’s contempt of court violates “international law.”  But any suggestion that the United States Courts violated United States law would be ludicrous and that is all that should matter to the President of the United States here.
Our governmental institutions, particularly the Federal Courts, are under attack by enemies foreign and domestic.  Lack of confidence in those governmental institutions jeopardizes our ability to do many things, including effectively responding to the climate crisis.  I wish that the NGOs that signed the letter to President Biden had reflected a bit more about that, and about what Mr. Donziger has been found, again and again, to have done in Ecuador and New York before deciding to attack our justice system.
U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan declared the $9.5 billion judgment to be the product of an “egregious fraud” by Donziger in March 2014, later ordering him to provide access to his computers, phones, email and social media accounts for forensic inspection. Having refused to comply with the post-trial orders, Donziger was convicted of six counts of contempt in July 2021 and sentenced to six months in prison by U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska before he was later released to home confinement after serving less than two months in Connecticut federal prison.

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